May 23, 2013 / 8:32 PM / in 5 years

Toronto mayor fires chief of staff as crack scandal swirls

TORONTO (Reuters) - In another sharp blow to scandal-plagued Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, several key members of his executive committee at City Hall said on Friday they are joining forces to publicly call on him to confront allegations of crack-cocaine use.

The group will release an open letter to Ford on Friday afternoon, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday told reporters outside the mayor’s office. It was not clear how many city councilors on the 13-member executive committee have signed the letter.

Holyday also said he is ready to step into the mayor’s job if needed, but shied away from calling the current controversy a crisis.

“I‘m concerned, I just think there’s a lot of pressure on him and he has to do something to get this matter resolved,” Holyday told reporters. “To sit back and hope it goes away, I don’t think is the answer.”

Two media outlets reported last week they had separately seen a cellphone video that allegedly shows Ford smoking crack-cocaine in the company of people involved in the drug trade. Both the Toronto Star and U.S.-based Gawker Media said they had declined to pay the six-figure sum demanded by the video’s owners for the recording.

The day after the story broke, Ford called the reports “ridiculous”, but still has not given a full statement or denial. Reuters is not able to independently verify the video’s existence or contents.

With the matter drawing global attention, both allies and opponents of Ford have called on him to either defend himself against the allegations or step down and get medical help.

But Ford has continued to stay silent on the matter. In the hallway outside his office on Friday, dozens of journalists lined up behind blue velvet ropes in hope that the mayor would speak upon his arrival.

Despite the media circus at City Hall all week, Holyday said city business is getting done.

Councilor Gary Crawford, another member of the executive committee, said that Ford’s inner circle continues to support him, but that the mayor must address the serious allegations that have been made.

“I don’t know if he has a substance abuse issue - myself personally - but everything that I‘m hearing does concern me and other members of the executive,” Crawford said.

“We need to get to the bottom of this, I think from the city’s perspective,” he added. “It’s a concern for all of us.”

Ford has had a rough week since the reports of the alleged video surfaced. On Tuesday, his dreams of a building a casino in Toronto were killed by council, then on Wednesday Ford lost his much-loved job as a volunteer high-school football coach. On Thursday the mayor fired his chief of staff.

Editing by Peter Galloway

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